Super Bowl Ads 2017: What Works, What Doesn't and What Gets Political

In today’s hyper-fast media climate, who has time to wait for the Super Bowl to actually see the commercials?

There are a few advertisers who will make us wait until the Big Game to see their wares – Snickers plans a live commercial with Adam Driver which will be Must See TV whether it works or not. Weeks ago, many advertisers started posting online teasers, previews and actual commercials airing in Sunday’s game. (Beermaker Anheuser-Busch reportedly held a “media briefing” on its ads strategy with journalists last month).

Makes sense. These companies are paying up to $5 million for 30 seconds of advertising time to the Fox network for space in a game that is often the most-watched TV event of the year. With that much at stake, a media strategy that doesn’t include some pre-game day viewing seems like a missed opportunity.

Just like with TV shows, ads that move audiences can tell us a lot about what values inspire or alarm us. And those notions can change on a dime – I’m betting Anheuser-Busch never expected its inspiring story about the immigration struggles of founder Adolphus Busch to be seen as a dig at President Donald Trump.

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But it’s tough to watch scenes in its ad titled “Born the Hard Way,” where Busch initially faces angry Americans telling him, “you’re not wanted here… go back home,” without thinking of Trump’s executive order on immigration and the fiery debate it has kicked off.

Here’s a look at some of the most interesting Super Bowl commercials coming Sunday – including a few that are compelling for reasons their creators likely never intended.

Bud Light: Ghost Spuds. The Weird But Kinda Works award goes to Budweiser for its ad featuring the ghost of its former Bud Light mascot, the party dog Spuds MacKenzie, voiced by actor Carl Weathers. At first, it’s odd to be reminded that the dog which actually played the original Spuds in late 1980s ads is no longer with us. But watching the “ghost” lead a schlubby guy to realize the value of friendship through beer is kinda entertaining – and pretty much the spirit of a lot of Super Bowl revelry.

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Audi: Daughter. As the father of three daughters, I was all in for this ad featuring a young girl beating several boys to win a downhill cart race while her dad voices fears about how sexism will affect her, asking, “do I tell her… she will automatically be valued as less than every man she meets?” By the time the screen announces “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work,” I’m drying my eyes and thinking about a vehicle upgrade.

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Ford: Go Further. Complaints about commercialism may seem quaint these days. But it’s still jarring to see Ford use Nina Simone’s rendition of the civil rights anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” to illustrate scenes where people are frustrated by being stuck in traffic or locked out of the house. When Simone sang about wanting to “break all the chains holding me,” I don’t think she meant sidestepping traffic tie-ups.

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Mercedes-Benz USA: Easy Driver. One notch down the commercialism disappointment scale, we find the Mercedes-Benz ad featuring Peter Fonda. Stories about Baby Boomers selling out are nothing new. But it’s still odd to see a guy who once embodied ’60s counter culture in Easy Rider star in a commercial with hordes of bikers acting like knuckleheads until they are struck dumb by the sight of a relatively clean-cut Fonda, peeling out of a parking lot in a $350,000 AMG-GT Roadster. Insult to injury: the commercial was directed by Fargo‘s Oscar-winning filmmakers, Joel and Ethan Coen.

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Honda: Yearbooks. Lots of celebrities are doing lots of interesting ads (it seems like New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski pops up in every other commercial). But my award for Best Use of a Big Name goes to this ad, which animates old, mostly embarrassing high school yearbook photos of celebrities like Robert Redford, Amy Adams and Viola Davis to tell viewers dreams really do come true. Even for guys geeky enough to try rocking the pornstar moustache Steve Carrell sports in his photo (“You think any of these folks believed that I’d make it?” he asks. Surely not.)

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Squarespace: Who is JohnMalkovich.com? I’m always telling journalism students to get ownership of their name as a URL for their websites soon as possible. So it was a tickle to see John Malkovich in this ad begging a fisherman to let him have his own name back. Extra points to Malkovich for always being willing to poke fun at his own eccentric image.

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Febreeze: Halftime #BathroomBreak. We all know what happens in bathrooms across the country between the halftime whistle and halftime show. Do we really need a TV commercial to remind us some air freshener may be needed?

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84 Lumber: The Journey Begins. This 90-second ad features a Spanish-speaking mother and her young daughter enduring loads of hardships – jumping on trains, walking long distances, crossing rushing streams – to reach their destination. The company has said Fox rejected the original version of the ad, which included images of a border wall similar to the one President Trump has promised to erect between Mexico and the U.S. Now 84 Lumber’s website promises it will feature the full ad at halftime, with “content deemed too controversial for TV.” The wall-less version which will air on Fox Sunday certainly humanizes people who are too often reduced to stereotypes in today’s immigration debates. I don’t know how much lumber this ad will sell, but it will surely earn loads of attention.

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Immigration Ban Halted By Federal Judge

A federal judge has temporarily halted President Trump’s executive order that bars citizens of seven Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. NPR’s Scott Horsley has the latest.

Lufthansa airplanes parked in front of an airport in Munich, Germany, in November 2016. Lufthansa is among the airlines that have announced they will resume boarding travelers affected by President Trump’s executive order. Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

On Friday night, a federal judge in Seattle temporarily halted the enforcement of President Trump’s executive order that bans travelers and immigrants from seven largely Muslim countries. By Saturday morning, some airlines had already begun acting on that judge’s ruling, saying they would resume boarding travelers covered under the ban.

Qatar Airways, which services many of the predominantly Middle Eastern countries barred by Trump, announced that it had been directed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to board nationals with valid documents from Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

The airline also noted:

“All refugees seeking admission presenting a valid, unexpired U.S. visa or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) card (Green Card) will be permitted to travel to the United States and will be processed accordingly upon arrival.”

But Qatar Airways wasn’t the only airline to release such an announcement Saturday. Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline, announced that on the basis of the federal court ruling it would also permit the affected travelers to fly to the U.S.

“However,” Lufthansa was careful to note, “short notice changes to the immigration regulations may occur at any time. The final decision regarding immigration lies with the US authorities.”

In Cairo, airport authorities received a notification Saturday from U.S. officials that they should also halt the enforcement of Trump’s travel ban. And Reuters reports that Emirates and Etihad Airways said Saturday they would do so, as well.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., multiple media outlets report that CBP spoke with U.S. airlines on a conference call Friday, informing them that after the federal judge’s ruling that it was “back to business as usual.”

CNN adds: “The government was in the process of reinstating visas, the [airline] executive said, adding that airlines would start removing travel alerts from their websites and getting messages out to customers to notify them of the change.”

Trump, for his part, tweeted a broadside Saturday morning against Judge James Robart’s decision, which suspends enforcement of Trump’s order while a case brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota is heard in court.

“When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security – big trouble!” Trump tweeted.

When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security – big trouble!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017

In a subsequent tweet, Trump derided Robart as a “so-called judge,” whose decision “is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Robart, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, is the federal judge presiding over the U.S. District Court in western Washington state.

In a statement released Friday, the White House also called Robart’s stay an “outrageous order.” Later, as NPR’s Rebecca Hersher noted, the statement was soon changed to remove the word “outrageous.”

But the thrust of the message remained the same: The White House said the Justice Department will challenge the judge’s decision.

Rebecca also reported that travelers blocked from their flights weren’t the only ones to be affected by Trump’s travel freeze:

“The State Department said [Friday] ‘roughly 60,000 individuals’ visas were provisionally revoked’ as a result of Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order barring refugees from seven countries.

“That number is considerably lower than the number given by a Justice Department attorney, who said today in federal court in Virginia that 100,000 visas were revoked as a result of the order, as Carmel Delshad of NPR station WAMU reported.”

Beyond the case brought by the states of Minnesota and Washington, three other states — Massachusetts, New York and Virginia — have also sued the federal government over Trump’s executive order.

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Does Having More Black Officers Reduce Police Violence?

Can the presence of more black police officers reduce police violence? Mark Makela/Getty Images hide caption

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The unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the death of Michael Brown in summer 2015 drew renewed scrutiny to police violence and revealed just how little the public knew about its pervasiveness. At first, there were widespread calls to address what officers looked like since Brown was African-American and the officer who shot him is white. The dominant theory was that if police departments better reflected the racial makeup of the communities they served, incidents of police violence would decrease. Maybe, the thinking was, another result would be less friction between officers and the public.

This rationale seemed intuitive, and Ferguson offered fertile ground for testing the theory. In 2015, two in three residents in the city of 21,000 were black, but only three officers in the 53-member force were. This disparity appeared as a tangible underlying factor that may have contributed to Brown’s death.

In the years since, a somewhat clearer picture about who is killed in police encounters has emerged thanks to reporting by the Washington Post, The Guardian, and Mapping Police Violence project. Today, data overwhelmingly confirm that black people are involved in and are victims of police-involved killings at greater proportions than any other racial group in the country. But even as more research explores the role of race in police violence, the findings have been inconclusive and sometimes contradictory.

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A new study that will be published in the next edition of the Public Administration Review will complicate that body of research even more. “What we find is evidence that [having] more black police officers probably doesn’t offer a direct solution to this problem,” Sean Nicholson-Crotty, a political scientist at Indiana University and one of the study’s authors, said. Indeed, the researchers concluded that as the ratio of black officers in police departments rose — up to a certain threshold — so did the number of fatal encounters between officers and black residents. “Any small group will sometimes be the strongest proponents of [the larger organization’s] norms and values, and people will sometimes see that as the mechanism to be seen as legitimate,” Nicholson-Crotty said.

The tipping point appears to be 25 percent.

When black officers reach that ratio in the force, the rate of fatal police-involved incidents levels off. The study also found that once a police department became about 40 percent black, the trendline flipped — the more black officers a department has after that point, the less likely the incidence of fatal encounters with black people. But the study suggests that what departments really need isn’t just to simply add more black officers, but to reach a critical mass of black officers. In fact, so many black officers that they would be overrepresented relative to the local black population. (Very few local police departments reached that 40-percent mark. The researchers looked at the 100 largest cities in the country, and only 15 had police forces with that proportion of black officers.)

So, why would adding black officers to the ranks drive up the number of fatal incidents?

One reason, Nicholson-Crotty said, is that black officers might be tougher on black citizens because they are especially invested in stopping crime in black neighborhoods. But he also said that in institutions where someone belongs to a distinct minority, they are often more likely to adhere to the cultures of the organization to prove they belong.

Nicholson-Crotty said that despite the study’s findings, there are other reasons that a police department may want to increase the number of black officers on the force. But the findings raised an unsettling question: might a city like Ferguson, in attempting to diversify its police force, actually unintentionally foster conditions that lead to more violent interactions between black people and the police?

That question gained steam after events in Ferguson in part because of lack of data. “We have bad numbers on policing, but you can get somewhat decent numbers on [local] demographics,” Phillip Atiba Goff, director of the Center for Policing Equity at John Jay College in New York, said. But Goff also said the logic behind that correlation isn’t interrogated enough. “I think the assumption is that racism can’t exist in black people, and so if we have more black police, we’re just going to have different results.”

The work of quantifying the racial gradients that may impact police violence will likely keep researches like Nicholson-Crotty breaking down numbers for many years to come.

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Why Immortality Is Overrated

While medical advances have allowed us to live longer, it's important to think about what you want before a health crisis hits.

Isabel Seliger for NPR

Helen was 82. She’d survived both breast cancer and outlived her husband.

One summer day she began bleeding from her colon and was admitted to the hospital. We assumed the worst — another cancer. But after she endured a series of scans and being poked with scopes, we figured out that she had an abnormal jumble of blood vessels called an arteriovenous malformation in the wall of her colon.

The finding surprised us, but the solution was clear: Surgery to remove that part of her colon should stop the bleeding once and for all. The operation went well. But afterward Helen’s lungs filled with fluid from congestive heart failure. Then she caught pneumonia and had to be put on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.

Her medical problems and our treatments had simply stressed her aging organs beyond their capability.

On morning rounds I took inventory: Helen had a breathing tube in her throat connected to the ventilator; a large IV in her neck; a wire inserted into her wrist artery to measure her blood pressure; a surgical wound drain and a bladder catheter to collect her urine.

Helen was tethered to our ICU, with no clear sign of when or even if she would leave. Helen’s only daughter was distraught—both about her mother’s condition and because she had never discussed what her mother would want in such a situation.

Helen was living out the fate of millions of Americans who don’t clearly state their medical wishes with an advance directive. Only about a quarter of American adults have an advance directive, according to a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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I found myself wishing we could just stop our full-court press on Helen. The humane thing to do, it seemed to me, would be to stop aggressive medical treatment and let nature take its course. After nearly two weeks of intensive care with no improvement in her condition, Helen’s daughter instructed us to stop the mechanical ventilator. She died an hour later.

Stories like Helen’s occur in ICUs all over the country every day, unfortunately. Often these situations are flashpoints of tension between the hopes and expectations of families and the realities seen by the medical team. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we lessen the stigma around death as an unmentionable topic by forcing ourselves to talk to our loved ones about what we want at the end of life, we can vastly diminish the amount of energy and suffering that come with trying to prolong life when nature tells us otherwise.

Many of us in the medical profession who have seen the futility of cases like Helen’s take steps to avoid spending our dying days in a hospital that way (or in a hospital at all). As Dr. Ken Murray wrote in a 2011 essay, doctors die differently, often forgoing invasive and expensive treatment. This approach is different than the one taken by most Americans, but shouldn’t be, he argued.

We know that Medicare typically spends a lot on people near the end of life. Medicare spending on inpatient hospital services in 2014 was seven times higher for people who died (‘decedents’) that year than those who survived.

I’ll admit that this is a bit of a tautology, because people sick enough to die from chronic illnesses and complications related to aging are much more likely to make ample use of their health insurance.

But in my view, the crux of the problem is the wide mismatch between what people say they want (to die at home) and where they wind up (still dying mostly in hospitals and nursing homes). As a result too many American deaths are still overly medicalized, robbing us of our chance at a peaceful passage.

The trend is moving in the right direction, however, as more of us express our care goals and die at home or in hospice.

One strategy is to imagine a point in your life when fighting to stay alive would be counterproductive. Would it be when you had advanced dementia and couldn’t recognize your family? What if you lost your ability to feed yourself? Work backward from there, and remember that when it comes to medical care, less is often more.

At that key point, your directive could limit your health care to seeking comfort rather than an attempted cure. You’ll have to be decisive about foregoing life-sustaining treatment, because of the inertia of the health care system and reluctance from our loved ones. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist, famously offered this viewpoint in a 2014 article titled, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”

Emanuel’s argument led to pushback. Many people, like my parents, were offended at the idea of giving up on life at 75.

But that’s not what Emanuel was actually arguing. He didn’t write the story’s headline, which more accurately would have been something like, “Why I Plan to Stop Screening Tests at Age 75 Because They’re More Likely to Hurt Me Than Help Me.”

I checked with Emanuel, now 59, to see if he’d had any change of opinion.

“The article reflects my view,” he replied by email. “I am stopping … colonoscopies and other screening tests at age 75. I am stopping statins and other medications where the rationale is to extend my life.” He said he’s not trying to provoke. “It is my view. It is provocative only because other people find it so.”

Having cared for many patients like Helen, who wind up in a vortex of intense medical care, I find what Murray and Emanuel have suggested to be highly appealing.

That said, it’s important for those of us looking to de-medicalize death to remember that is our choice. Many people opt instead to do everything to stave off death.

The message is simple: Think deeply about what you want beforehand. Then tell your family. Share it with your doctor. We truly want to honor your wishes.

John Henning Schumann is an internal medicine doctor and serves as president of the University of Oklahoma’s Tulsa campus. He also hosts Studio Tulsa: Medical Monday on KWGS Public Radio Tulsa. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlassHospital.

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Trump Backers Want Ideology Test For Extreme Vetting

An employee delivers new passports at the main Baghdad Passport office in the Iraqi capital in 2015. Hadi Mizban/AP hide caption

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Hadi Mizban/AP

The Trump administration says it is suspending all refugee admissions to the United States until it can come up with a plan for “extreme vetting.”

So what could that mean?

Refugees are already subjected to multiple interviews and a security vetting by nine U.S. law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies that check their backgrounds, social media activity and the reasons they fled their countries. The process usually takes 18 months or more, according to resettlement agencies.

But some of those who helped form President Trump’s policies on refugees are upfront in saying this is not actually about stricter security screening. It’s about something else.

“It means a kind of ideological screening to keep out people who hate a free society even if they are not violent,” says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank that supports tighter controls on immigration. Krikorian met with Trump during the campaign and backs the president’s executive order as a “corrective” to the vetting system in place during the Obama years.

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President Trump signed an executive order suspending the State Department’s refugee assistance program for 120 days until “extreme” vetting can be put in place.

In an interview with NPR, Krikorian said he backs an ideological test that poses questions for refugees in the vetting process including, in his words, “Do you think it’s okay to kill apostates? Do you think it’s okay to throw gays off of buildings? Or if Islam’s Prophet Muhammad is insulted, there should be a punishment?”

If a refugee says yes to any of these questions, says Krikorian, “Then we don’t want you here.”

Trump’s executive order on immigration appears to refer to these views by declaring the United States should keep out those with “hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles” and “those who would place violent ideologies over American law.”

This is all of intense concern for refugee advocates. The most pressing refugee need today is among Syrians — some 5 million have fled the country’s civil war. The vast majority are Muslim.

“It’s clearly Muslim-targeted,” says Muna Jondy, a Michigan immigration lawyer of Syrian descent who’s been fielding frantic calls from refugee families in the U.S. whose relatives are now barred from joining them.

She points out the refugee screening process already targets those with extreme Islamist views via counter-terrorism vetting, which checks for links to radical Islamist groups.

But the president appears to echo opinions of a web of supporters who have warned about the wider “dangers” of Islam and more recently have called for rigorous ideological vetting. His national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has called fear of Islam “rational” and equates Islam with a political ideology.

One of the most outspoken of these supporters is Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Policy Studies and a leading anti-immigration advocate. Human rights groups have described Gaffney as a conspiracy theorist and Islamophobe, but his views have gained traction in the Trump administration. Trump cited his work during his campaign.

In recent interview with NPR, Gaffney laid out his view that Islam is a national security threat not only because of violent jihadists, but because of what he sees as “this stealthy, subversive kind of jihad” practiced by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Gaffney claims the Brotherhood’s stealth aim is to impose sharia, or Islamic law, in the U.S.

Gaffney supports an ideological test for refugees to “ensure they are not creating this sharia agenda, that they are not going to part of the Muslim Brotherhood or part of the networks that engage in radicalization.”

In a broad sense, tests of attitudes aren’t unprecedented. Doris Meissner, a former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, notes that an ideological test for newcomers is “deeply embedded” in U.S. history. The U.S. barred anarchists in 1903. During the Cold War, she says, “It was people who believed in communism. It’s still in our law.”

But Meissner points out these ideological tests have not had the desired outcome, because over time, the tests “have proven to be poorly equipped to actually predict what people are going to do.” And it gets more complex when the beliefs straddle the line between politics and religion.

Meissner compares Trump supporters’ fear of sharia law and their view that it’s at odds with the U.S. system with the fears and debates surrounding the candidacy of John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s. Kennedy was Catholic and his detractors feared that if elected, the American president would be taking orders from the Pope.

“Then, JFK made his well-known statement about his personal faith and his responsibility to the civil system,” Meissner says.

For Muslim activists, the idea of a test targeting their beliefs is alarming. Wilfredo A. Ruiz, a Muslim convert and spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, says invasive and subjective questioning about religious beliefs already takes place at airports by border patrol agents.

“The questions are now more specific,” he says. “Are you Sunni or Shiite? Are you acquainted with Wahhabism? Do you have a Quran in your luggage?”

Ruiz says he’s filed dozens of complaints in the past few weeks with the Department of Homeland Security for what he calls intrusive questioning of Muslim travelers. His clients often comply, he says, handing over their passwords to cell phones and social media because refusing would result in a long wait and missed flights.

“People need to know this is going on,” he says, noting that civil liberties groups are working together, sending squads of lawyers to airports in support of passengers detained for questioning. “They no longer see it as a Muslim cause,” he says. “Jews, Hispanics, African-Americans — everyone is asking, who’s next?”

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Kansas City Clergyman Seeks Way To Pastor Across The Political Divide

The Rev. Adam Hamilton preaches to the congregation at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection outside of Kansas City. The multi-campus church with a membership of more than 20,000 is the largest Methodist church in the U.S. Courtesy of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection hide caption

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Courtesy of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

Clergy across the country are sermonizing about events in Washington, D.C.

For Rev. Adam Hamilton, that is both a challenge and an obligation.

Hamilton founded the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas in 1990, hoping to attract what he describes as thinking Christians with little or no engagement with their faith. The congregation began meeting in the chapel of a funeral home.

Today, it’s a multi-campus church with a membership of more than 20,000. It’s the biggest Methodist church in the country, and it has been cited as one of the most influential churches in America.

The new sanctuary that’s about to open at the main campus just outside Kansas City hosts the largest single stained glass window in the world.

Hamilton tells NPR’s Robert Siegel he didn’t set out to claim that record. But he did set out to build a church that will serve as a house of worship for a century, if not more.

“We’ll baptize 30,000 babies in here,” he says. “We’ll give 30,000 children their third-grade Bibles. This congregation over the next 100 years will give away 50,000 units of blood, 10 million pounds of food. And over the next 100 years, we’ll give between $4.5 and $6.5 billion to ministries outside the walls of our church.”

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Hamilton is in the midst of a series of sermons he calls “Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope.”

On Sunday, his focus will be fear related to the direction of our country. He will touch on President Trump’s executive action temporarily barring refugees and citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

“So part of it’s just dealing with fear,” Hamilton says. “You know, our fear of President Trump, our fear of the whirlwind of activity – so if you tend to be left-of-center, there’s a great deal of fear there – and I want to address that and say, ‘We need to be a careful about overreacting, and being people who are stirring up fear.’ “


Interview Highlights

On Trump’s executive actions on immigration

One of the things that struck me was that President Trump was doing exactly what he said he was going to do when he was running for office. And it was clear to me that a lot of people would feel safer because of this.

I didn’t personally feel safer. I think, I felt this adds to a perception of America that might further support the feelings of more radical jihadists who would say well, “Here America’s showing its true stripes.” … But I can understand why some people would feel that way.

On the decision to talk about refugees in his sermon

Well, I knew actually as of Friday night (Jan. 27) that I would be saying something, but I chose not to address it in church immediately after that on Sunday because I felt like I didn’t know enough yet. And I had people who were disappointed that I didn’t talk about it in church immediately after that.

And part of my thinking was, “If every time President Trump issues an executive order that I might question on Friday, I change my sermon to preach out about it, I’m going to be preaching about President Trump every Sunday for the next four years.”

And our congregation is divided. We have some folks who are Trump supporters. We have folks who were not Trump supporters. The Trump supporters [are] like, “Please don’t talk politics every Sunday. Don’t bring your personal opinions into the sermon every week.” And other folks are like, “Why aren’t you speaking out? Why aren’t you saying something?”

On what he plans for his next sermon

I will also be speaking specifically about refugees, so I’ll be reminding them of what the Scriptures say about the refugee, the immigrant, the alien in your midst. What does the Bible teach us about how we react to people who are in troubled situations? You know, what does it mean to be concerned for those who can’t speak up for themselves? Then let’s ask the question, how would Jesus define greatness? If we’re really trying to be a nation that is great.

The new sanctuary that’s about to open at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s main campus has the largest single stained glass window in the world. Courtesy of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection hide caption

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Courtesy of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

On how he feels speaking to a divided congregation

When you have a congregation like ours that’s divided on both sides of the political spectrum and conservative, progressive and a whole lot of people in between, the question is how do I continue to be pastor for all of these people? And how do I help them hear each other?

I mean, part of the challenge in the last presidential election for Democrats is they were tone deaf to the concerns of people who were on the right, and lost an election they thought they had in the bag. And I think that’s true in the congregation. That I’ve got to be able to understand why are some people saying, “Finally, we’ve got a president who’s doing something,” while other people are fearful and saying or angry and saying, “We have to go protest.”

I want help both sides be able to hear the legitimate and sometimes not necessarily legitimate concerns of the other. My aim is not to see 40 percent of my congregation walk away saying, “I don’t know if I want to come back.” And I’ve said to pastors across the country, I’ve said, “It’s easy to irritate people. It’s harder to influence people.”

My hope is that I’ve influenced people on both sides to come together and find out, OK what’s reasonable, what makes sense, and then what is in keeping with the Gospel. How does where we go, you know, when we walk out of the church and are thinking about this, influenced by our faith in Christ?

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Tift Merritt On World Cafe

Tift Merritt performs in the World Cafe studio. Galea McGregor/WXPN hide caption

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Galea McGregor/WXPN

  • “Dusty Old Man”
  • “Heartache Is An Uphill Climb”
  • “Wait For Me”
  • “Love Soldiers On”
  • “Bramble Rose”

North Carolina singer-songwriter Tift Merritt arrived at our session with her new daughter, Jean, in tow. Jean’s one of at least three new things in her life: She also has a new album, Stitch Of The World, and a new partner in pedal-steel guitarist Eric Heywood.

Merritt wrote most of Stitch Of The World while pregnant. “I have always been very anxious and careful about how motherhood would affect what I do,” she says. She needn’t have worried, though: The album, which she produced with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine, may be Merritt’s best work yet. Her World Cafe performance, particularly the song “Heartache Is An Uphill Climb,” is extraordinary. Hear it via the complete session in the player above and check out the video below.

VuHaus VuHaus

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Is Trump Tweeting From a 'Secure' Smartphone? The White House Won't Say

President Trump gives a thumbs up as he speaks on the phone in the Oval Office on Jan. 29. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

For some time, the public has known that Donald Trump does a lot of his tweeting himself, from the account @realDonaldTrump, and from an Android smartphone. But many cybersecurity experts believed that would change once Trump took the oath of office, because White House-approved communication devices are much more secured — and stripped down — than the smartphones the rest of us use.

In fact, former President Barack Obama once compared his official White House smartphone to a child’s toy. “It doesn’t take pictures, you can’t text,” Obama told Jimmy Fallon in 2016. “The phone doesn’t work. You can’t play your music on it. So, basically, it’s like — does your 3-year-old have one of those play phones?”

A few recent reports indicate that President Trump might still be tweeting from his old Android, and he may not even be following all the security protocols he should.

Unsecure smartphone

Soon after Trump’s inauguration, an enterprising hacker found that Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account was still tied to the Gmail account of a staffer, a move seen as insecure. (The account now seems to be connected to more official and secure White House email accounts.) And a January article in The New York Times reported that Trump continues to tweet from an “old, unsecured Android phone.”

Several cybersecurity experts told NPR, if that’s the case, it’s not good.

“Donald Trump for the longest time has been using a insecure Android phone that by all reports is so easy to compromise, it would not meet the security requirements of a teenager,” says Nicholas Weaver, a computer scientist at the University of California at Berkeley.

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Weaver doesn’t have any first-hand knowledge of the security standards on Trump’s phone. But he says knowing that a sitting president has an insecure Android, “we must assume that his phone has actively been compromised for a while, and a actively compromised phone is literally a listening device.”

Other cybersecurity experts didn’t offer predictions that dire, but half a dozen of them told NPR that if Trump is still using an unsecured Android, even if only to tweet, malware could infiltrate the phone’s camera or microphone, or even use geolocation to tell hackers the president’s whereabouts.

Melanie Teplinsky, a privacy expert at American University, says even without those worst-case scenarios, just hacking into Trump’s Twitter account alone could wreak havoc.

“Another concern is that someone tries to influence stock markets or politics through the use of a Twitter account by making false posts,” she says.

No comment

NPR reached out the White House for comment on Trump’s tweeting and smartphone use. We asked a few questions:

  1. Is Trump tweeting from a secured device?
  2. Are those reports of Trump using an old, unsecured Android true?
  3. Is the Trump administration following all the cybersecurity protocols it should?

The administration gave no answers to those questions, and no confirmation or denial of all those reports that Trump is using an unsecured device. But deputy White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham tells NPR, “We don’t comment on security protocols of any kind.”

The absence of a clear statement from the White House on the security of Trump’s communications, matched with the continued reports of unsecured smartphone use, has led some to accuse Trump of hypocrisy.

“He and so many during the campaign were so critical of Secretary (Hillary) Clinton for what they felt were inappropriate practices,” says Michael Sulmeyer, director of the Cyber Security Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “And it really is the height of hypocrisy to … on day one, be doubling down on the exact type of behavior they had no problem riling up the base with.”

Avi Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, says: “If President Trump is carrying around an unsecured Android phone, that’s 1,000 times worse than using a personal email server.”

Seeking solutions

To ensure that President Trump can tweet securely, he’d have to use a smartphone that “cannot speak on the general Internet,” Weaver says. “It has to basically cut itself off from the rest of the world to be secure.”

But Bill Anderson, CEO of security firm OptioLabs, says there might be another option: Security professionals in the federal government should use this moment to find a way for security and technology to keep up with the Tweeter-in-Chief.

“I think the challenge is for the security people that are supporting White House communications to improve their capability to secure the platform,” Anderson told NPR. “That platform could let him tweet and yet not be at risk. So, they need to catch up with what you can actually do with technology, not just say ‘no.’ “

Rubin says, in that regard, Twitter could help. “If I were Twitter,” he says, “I would set up a separate, encrypted channel that I would give all of the credentials and the keys to the president to use.”

A spokesperson for Twitter said the company doesn’t comment on individual accounts.

But Rubin imagines a verification system created by the White House and the company, in which Twitter would confirm each @realDonaldTrump tweet before it was sent. But Rubin points out, that strategy would only secure the president’s Twitter account; it would do nothing to change the vulnerabilities of an old Android smartphone.

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Frank Ocean's Father Accuses Singer Of Libel, Seeks Damages In An Unusual Lawsuit

Frank Ocean attends the Costume Institute Gala for the “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2013. Jamie McCarthy/Getty hide caption

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Jamie McCarthy/Getty

In a suit filed yesterday in the Central District of California, Calvin Cooksey — representing himself in the case — has accused Frank Ocean of libel over a blog post published on Ocean’s Tumblr. The post, a reaction to the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando last summer, outlines a scene in a diner in which Cooksey disparaged LGBTQ persons after being served by a transgender waitress, then dragged the 6-year-old Ocean (now 29) out of the restaurant. Cooksey is seeking $14.5 million in the case, which he says damaged his entertainment career. Cooksey is also Frank Ocean’s father.

The suit’s initial filings are rife with circuitous logic and bizarre language. Cooksey says he “never had a problem with any member of the ‘LBGT’ [sic] in Plaintiff’s life, with the acceptation [sic] of Defendant” — a statement which may contradict Cooksey’s claim of holding no discriminatory views, the basis of his suit. Cooksey accuses Ocean of hypocrisy stemming from Ocean’s relationship with Tyler, the Creator, whom Cooksey says also should have been accused of homophobia in the offending Tumblr post due to lyrics of Tyler’s that could be interpreted as homophobic. Cooksey writes:

Text from a lawsuit filed by Calvin Cooksey. Central District Court of California hide caption

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Central District Court of California

Prior to that, Cooksey apologizes for Ocean’s sins:

Text from a lawsuit filed by Calvin Cooksey. Central District Court of California hide caption

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Central District Court of California

Cooksey accuses Ocean of deceiving the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization, as well as Ellen DeGeneres — a “very good dancer” — based on Ocean’s supposedly hypocritical relationship with Tyler.

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A New York Times profile from 2013 references Ocean’s frayed relationship with Cooksey, writing that “his father split without explanation when he was 6, and Ocean would say nothing about that to me other than that his dad was a failed musician who ‘went crazy’ and made questionable hairstyle choices.”

Cooksey also sued Russell Simmons, co-founder of the legendary hip-hop label Def Jam, for libel, defamation and emotional distress in 2014. That case was dismissed by Judge Loretta A. Preska that same year, and is currently on appeal.

A request for comment from Ocean’s management was not immediately returned.

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For Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, The Best Super Bowl Title Is 'Always The Next One'

Want to know a secret about Tom Brady? Ask his Dad.

“Tommy is a football player,” says Tom Brady Sr. “This is not a July-January or February endeavor for him. He has a countdown clock in his gym that is now ticking to next year’s Super Bowl.”

That’s what Brady Sr. told the CSN “Quick Slants” podcast about a countdown clock his son started roughly a year ago. The timepiece is a glimpse into the focus, drive and preparation that makes his son arguably the best quarterback ever.

For Tom Brady Jr., it’s all about winning Super Bowls. He will play for his fifth title this Sunday in Super Bowl 51.

Says Brady, “My favorite? Always the next one has been my favorite one.”

Tom Brady grew up in a tight-knit, athletic family. One that honed his competitiveness and drive.

Growing up, the quarterback remembers that his three older sisters were, he says, “the best athletes in my house.” And he lived in the shadow of their sports success. Before Tom Brady was Tom Brady, he was often called “The Little Brady” or “Maureen Brady’s Little Brother.”

During Super Bowl week, the family’s closeness has been evident. Brady teared up talking about his father. And it’s come out that his mother isn’t well.

“You just have different things that your family goes through in the course of your life,” says Brady. “It’s been a challenging year for my family for some personal reasons. It will be nice to have everyone here, watching us here this weekend.”

The family watched “The Little Brady” fight his way up quarterback depth charts in high school, then at the University of Michigan, then with the Patriots.

Brady on the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 22, 2017 in Foxborough, Mass. (Elsa/Getty Images)

After 17 seasons, Brady is now the superstar with the supermodel wife. The sixth-round pick who — along with Patriots coach Bill Belichick — built an NFL dynasty. Along the way, Brady’s inspired both love and hate among fans and opponents.

“Success breeds jealousy,” says former Brady teammate Damien Woody. “Think about it. You’re talking about a player who’s been to the Super Bowl like 50 percent of his career. Think how crazy that is.”

Woody, an NFL analyst with ESPN, gives, perhaps, the most charitable explanation of why Brady’s not more universally adored.

But there’s more to it than that. Like Brady’s relationship with President Donald Trump.

It all started with a bright red “Make America Great Again” cap that Brady had in his locker. And it’s made for some awkward moments during the Patriots current playoff run. Even some Patriots fans took offense at Brady going red in the bluest of blue states.

Asked by sports radio WEEI if he congratulated the new president on his election win, Brady had this to say: “Ummm… I have called him. Yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call him.

“I always try to keep it in context. Because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. So, it’s just a friendship and I got a lot of friends so I call a lot of people.”

And then there’s Deflategate.

Brady’s alleged deflating of footballs in a playoff game cost him a four-game suspension at the start of this season, and earned him a cheater label. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the punishment and instantly became Public Enemy No. 1 among Patriots fans who considered the Deflategate affair a witch hunt.

When asked by reporters if the Defategate fallout provides extra motivation to win a fifth ring, Brady is as calm and composed as he is on the field.

“I’m motivated for my teammates,” says Brady. “I think they’re all the motivation that I need. It takes a lot of work to get to this point and nothing that has happened in the past is going to help us win this game.”

Woody says it’s all a long way from where Brady’s NFL career began in 2000.

“I saw this tall, lanky kid who didn’t really have a lot of muscle build,” says Woody. “And you really didn’t know what to expect at that time.”

But it didn’t take Brady long to win the respect and trust of teammates, like former linebacker Willie McGinest.

“When he’s on the field, he creates that zone and he pulls everyone into that,” says McGinest, now an analyst for the NFL Network. “You can’t play around. It’s all business. He’s having fun, but it’s a mission for him. It’s like every single play he’s trying to prove something, every single snap, everything that happens, it’s like it’s his last play.”

Brady smiles after the Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans in 2002. (Doug Mills/AP)Brady smiles after the Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans in 2002. (Doug Mills/AP)

Recalling the game-winning drive in Super Bowl 36 against the St. Louis Rams, Woody remembers Brady’s demeanor most, especially since the quarterback had earned the starting job just a few months earlier.

“I just remember Brady coming into the huddle just so calm,” says Woody. “You’re on the biggest stage of your life and for him to be that calm. It just brought a calmness to the whole huddle and we just methodically went down the field. It was almost like he was born for that moment.”

Brady’s play in that game earned him the first of four Super Bowl rings and the first of three Super Bowl MVP awards. Brady also has two league MVP awards and has won more playoff games than any other quarterback.

Fans see it as testament to both Brady’s talent and longevity. The 39 year old follows a strict diet that bans sugar, white flour, MSG, dairy and caffeine.

Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden says Brady’s just as strict and disciplined with his training.

“He’s never taken his foot off the gas,” says Layden, who recently wrote about Brady’s connection with his receivers in a Sports Illustrated cover story. “Maybe he just likes winning. But I also think he likes continuing to prove to people that he’s better than some people thought he was at one time. Of course, now, in 2017, he has the windmill to tilt at of Roger Goodell, having taken four games away from him and Brady thinking that was unjust. And that’s given him another cause to battle.”

And given us another reason to wonder just what might happen if the Patriots win Super Bowl 51, and Goodell and Brady have to share the stage during the post-game trophy ceremonies.

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